Mystery of 'Dives' in parable of rich, poor

Published: Friday, July 31 2009 12:15 a.m. MDT

Early manuscripts of Doctrine and Covenants 104 shows that the revelation has a close tie to Christ's parable of the rich man and Lazarus, according to an article by Steven C. Harper in a recent BYU Studies.

Christ's story tells about a "beggar named Lazarus" who was neglected by an unnamed "rich man." After both die, their positions reverse. Lazarus is in "Abraham's bosom" or paradise. The rich man, now in hell, is a beggar to Lazarus.

"And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:23-24).

Doctrine and Covenants 104:18 "obviously draws on the New Testament story," wrote Harper, an editor on the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

"Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment" (Doctrine and Covenants 104: 18, emphasis added).

Harper emphasized the words "the wicked" when he quoted the revelation because these words are not in the three earliest manuscripts of Joseph Smith's revelation. Instead of "the wicked," the early manuscripts say "Dives."

Dives?

"He shall, with Dives, lift up his eyes in hell"?

The word, according to Harper, "links this revelation more closely to this New Testament passage than has previously been noticed."

Dives isn't a disease or a reference to swimming around in a hellish lake. It is a name.

"'Dives' is the Latin word for rich, opulent, wealthy," Harper wrote. The opening sentence of Christ's parable, "There was a certain rich man," in Latin is "Homo quidam erat dives."

"(I)n the Middle Ages the word dives came to be used as the proper name of the rich man in the story, due largely to the asymmetry of the parable — the poor man's name is specified while the rich man is unnamed," Harper wrote.

If tradition can invent the names of the wise men of the nativity, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, why not assign a name to the rich man? Harper wrote that the name "Dives" was used in English to refer to the rich man as early as 1393.

The presence of the name Dives in Doctrine and Covenants 104 showed a direct connection to Christ's story and to the rich man.

So why did the manuscript version of the revelation get changed in the printed 1835 version of the Doctrine and Covenants? Harper thinks the change from "Dives" to "the wicked" makes the meaning clearer.

"This editorial change, made under the supervision of the First Presidency and Presiding Elders of the church, clarified that although it may indeed be difficult for the rich to enter heaven (see Matthew

19:24), it is wickedness and not riches per se that will keep them out," Harper wrote. "The unrighteous rich in Zion who, like the rich man in Christ's story in Luke 16, do not impart of their substance to the poor will some day have great cause to regret that wickedness."

This article is based on "The Rich Man, Lazarus, and Doctrine & Covenants 104:18" in BYU Studies, vol. 47, no. 4, 2008.


E-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

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